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Page last updated at 09:10 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 10:10 UK

Hard times in Middletown, USA

People claiming free mattresses from a Muncie hotel
A mattress give-away by a Muncie hotel was warmly received by locals

In 1929 the Rockefeller Institute published a scientific study of a "typical American city." 'Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture' took an intimate look at church, school, family and work in Muncie, Indiana.

The book was an instant hit and is still in print. It launched Muncie's reputation as the most widely studied small town in the world.

Today Muncie is a rust-belt city grappling with de-industrialization and deepening recession.

Its residents are left with few choices.

In Crossing Continents, Stephen Smith reports from Muncie on how the economic crisis is affecting the people who defined the American middle class.

BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents is broadcast on Thursday, 30 April, 2009 at 1102 BST and is repeated on Monday, 4 May, 2009 at 20:30 BST.

You can find out more about the people featured in this programme and the accompanying American RadioWorks programme Hard Times in Middletown which will be Broadcast in the US on Thursday, 21 May, 2009.

Reporter: Stephen Smith
Producers: Laurie Stern and Sue Ellis

This episode is a co-production between American RadioWorks and the BBC


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